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MCCOY, SETH THEODORE

MCCOY, SETH THEODORE

McCOY, SETH THEODORE (17 Dec. 1928 - 22 Jan. 1997) worked his way from a Cleveland Post Office employee to become the country's leading oratorio tenor. Born in Sanford, N.C., he was the son of Pauline and Seth Theodore McCoy. He studied at Greensboro Agricultural and Technical College and toured with the Jubilee Sinders before seeing service with the U.S. Army in the KOREAN WAR. After recovering from a sniper's wound, he came to Cleveland to join his mother, who had moved to the city as a defense worker in WORLD WAR II. McCoy got a job as a mail handler in the Main Post Office while attending barber's college in hopes of opening his own barber shop. On the advice of a fellow postal employee, however, he also resumed his vocal studies under Pauline Thesmacher of the CLEVELAND MUSIC SCHOOL SETTLEMENT, whom he credited with giving him a "conservatory course at bargain prices." He gained experience singing in area churches and in operatic productions at KARAMU HOUSE, where he participated in the U.S. premiere of Janacek's Kat'a Kabanova. McCoy made the first of thirteen appearances with the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA when he sang in a 1964 performance of Honegger's King David. He also sang locally at the BACH FESTIVAL and with the Cleveland Concert Associates under James Levine at SEVERANCE HALL. Moving to New York in 1963, McCoy became a soloist with the Robert Shaw Chorale and later with the Bach Aria Group. He sang with major orchestras throughout the U.S. and Canada and toured in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. He appeared during the inaugural week of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and sang in the premiere of Scott Joplin's Treemonisha with Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony. At the age of 50, McCoy made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1979 in Mozart's Die Zauberflote. He had married soprano Jan Gunter, a member of the Shaw chorale, the previous year. In 1982 he became a voice professor at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. He died in Rochester, N.Y., of complications from diabetes.

J.V.